In anticipation of the American general election in November, Colin P. Watson Sr., acting executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, was one of 23 denominational and ecumenical leaders to sign a letter to congress asking for action to “ensure a free, fair and safe election.” The letter was organized by Sojourners, an organization encouraging action by Christians in the “intersection of faith, politics, and culture,” and released May 11.
It asked congress “to include at least $4 billion in additional funding and adopt a number of key policy measures in the upcoming Coronavirus economic stimulus legislation in order to ensure both the public’s safety and an inclusive and fair voting process for the 2020 primary and general elections.”
“The content of the letter addresses an issue of justice, which is of particular interest and concern to many CRC churches, especially those serving communities with high percentages of minority populations,” said Watson. “I believe that the issue of ensuring that minority voices are heard is also related to addressing poverty and hunger alleviation, a topic to which the CRCNA is particularly attuned. I also believe that it speaks well of the Christian community to see the breadth of organizations which have signed on to the letter.”
The letter outlined some specific requested measures, including “the implementation of comprehensive policies that expand voter registration, in-person early voting, no-excuse absentee voting by mail, voter education, and safe in-person voting on Election Day.”
The letter expressed that “enabl(ing) every eligible citizen to exercise their fundamental right to vote must be a bipartisan priority and nonpartisan issue.”
Noting that the “COVID-19 crisis has the potential to unite and bring out the best in our nation or to further divide and separate us,” the letter expressed desire that the United States “come through this crisis stronger and more united.”
Eddy Alemán, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, and Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, to which the CRC belongs, also signed the letter. Other signees included leaders in Baptist fellowships, the Conference of National Black Churches, Lutheran churches, and The National Latino Evangelical Coalition.
Watson, who serves on the board of directors for Sojourners, said he was made aware of the letter by Adam R.Taylor, the organization’s executive director.
Taylor said the letter was an outgrowth of Sojourners’ previous work in defending the right to vote for all U.S. citizens—work done in a partnership with the Skinner Leadership Institute and the National African American Clergy network. They found the work necessary after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision on the 1965 Voting Rights Act made room for states to enact changes in voting procedure without having those changes reviewed to ensure they don’t disproportionately affect people based on race. The COVID crisis, Taylor said, “throws the election into even greater jeopardy” because states might be ill-equipped to provide citizens with safe voting options.
“This letter was our effort to show that a huge cross-section of the church … are unified in their call to congress to provide bold leadership to ensure that a free, fair, and safe election happens,” Taylor said. “To me, it’s kind of an example of where the church at its best can be the ‘conscience of the state,’ borrowing from the words of Dr. King, and it can transcend the brokenness of our partisan politics and speak with a pretty strong moral voice.”